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The Jacket

February 14, 2011

Today I watched a movie called The Jacket, another very random choice. But when you are trying to avoid doing homework, random movies are usually the best solution. Don’t be confused by the cliche tagline on the poster, this is not technically a horror movie. It is definitely uncomfortable at some points, but it has the tone of a psychological thriller. I love mind-bending movies. Since I watch so many movies, when I get a chance to watch one that actually makes you think and changes your perception on what movies can do it is a real treat (Because Prince of Persia totally changed concepts on the ability of cinema…)

The main character is a Gulf War veteran named John Starks. He is played by Adrien Brody, an actor that I cannot say enough good things about (minus his role in Predators, why was he even in that?). Almost all of Brody’s rolls are great, most obviously as a Polish Jew musician trying to avoid bands of rampaging murderous Nazi’s in The Pianist, which he won an Oscar for. But even his lesser known rolls are well acted and heartfelt, like his take on a brilliant but melancholy con man in the incredibly warm, funny, dramatic, and original movie The Brothers Bloom. Adrien Brody pulls it off again in this thriller, where he flips from normal to seemingly insane in a matter of seconds.

The veteran Jack Starks is introduced to the audience with a monologue from Brody, saying that he died after being shot in the head during the Gulf War, but was brought back to life. The notion of life and death being interconnected is important through out the movie, as is the importance of touching the right people through out your life. Starks is then seen walking down a wintery road in 1993, where he stops to help a girl and her mother out. The mother is clearly wasted, which normally I wouldn’t have a problem with, but driving with your 10 year old girl in the car, not to mention is was probably a Tuesday, does not bode well for this woman. Being the nice guy he is, Jack fixes the car and gives the little girl his dog tags, a meeting that would change both of their lives, and probably save both of them as well.

Starks is the unfortunate bystander when the guy who Jack hitchhikes with kills a cop and plants the gun on Starks. Starks is then thought to be insane (because all soldiers in movies have PTSD and kill people at will, or just get really pissed for no reason). So he is sent to a hospital where the head doctor happens to be insane and thinks that putting patience in an old straight jacket and leaving them in a body container in the morgue will create a “womb like environment” and calm their craziness. I kind of love mental institution movies because they always show how blurry the line between sane and totally nut-so bonkers really is. Plus anyone who is said to be insane can’t say that they aren’t, because it makes them sounds more insane. It’s a scary, but interesting paradox, and it translates well into characters whom the audience knows, or thinks they know, aren’t actually crazy.

"I swear man, I'm not crazy!"

Mental hospital, crazy doctors, Adrien Brody; looks like the start to a good movie. And then the twist comes. Not only does the jacket, plus the awesome “womb-like environment” drive people even more insane, but it actually lets them move forward in time. Yes, another time travel movie, I guess that’s just what I’ve been feeling these days. But not only is Jack Starks transported to 2007, but he find himself running into the same girl that he gave his dog tags to on the street in 1992. Except that little girl is not so little anymore. She is now old, and like her mom, living unhappily. Played by Kiera Knightly, Jackie is Sparks only connection to his old life.

He finds out while he is with Jackie that he actually died 3 days from the day he was last put in the jacket. He now has his task; to figure out how to evade his coming demise and hopefully end up with the hot chick in the future. He ends up using the jacket as his tool to learn about his death and figure out what happens to him. Throw in Daniel Craig as another crazy, but not that crazy patient, and the movie is a really interesting look at sanity and a mans struggle to get his life back. The relationship between Jack and Jackie (I wonder if those names were intentional), progresses a little quickly, and her acceptance of him as a man who time traveled specifically to meet her after being locked in a closet in a straight jacket is actually pretty unbelievable.

"Will you sleep with me if I tell you this thing lets me time travel?"

All in all this was a well made, well shot, and well acted psychological thriller. It was sufficiently creepy, but the romance was still apparent and the connection between Brody and Knightly is good. Kiera and Craig’s American accents are actually surprisingly good, and all the minor characters are strong also. I will say that it is a little weird that Jack meeting a little girl in 1992 and then sleeping with her when she grows up in 2007 might not seem weird. But when you realize it was as little as a few months in Starks’ life, it kinda seems a little pedophile-esk. Once you can get past that weird relationship, the movie is definitely worth a watch. Here’s the trailer, hope you enjoy…

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